Therapist Reflections: Speaking Up and Out About Teletherapy!

A Speech Language Pathologist’s Perspective // Laura Ironman, MS, CCC-SLP

With all of the changes that have happened within 2020 and with more likely coming, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos. Many have never heard the phrases “telehealth” “telepractice” or “Teletherapy” prior to now, let alone experienced it hands on. Although this is a new concept for most, telepractice has actually been around for over a decade providing speech therapy to many remotely. Originally, it was designed to provide services to individuals who lived in rural settings that lived too far from the nearest provider. Telepractice has found to be very beneficial for rural schools, where students may need services, but a therapist just couldn’t get to each school because they were too far apart in a certain region. 

Speech Sessions – Beating the Quarantine Blues?

What’s been sticking out to me the most about teletherapy and talking with parents is how different each week can be. Parents feel differently, maybe some new behaviors are appearing in a child, maybe they had an absolutely perfect week last week and now this week has been a bunch of meltdowns.  Emotions are changing with each check-in even though nothing has really changed in their environment. Everyone is still staying inside, trying to fulfill their set out routines.  Maybe the weather is better one week compared to the other, but for the most part nothing changed. This shows how much the stress of this crisis comes and goes in waves for many of us. That goes the same for the kids, especially for our children with communication disorders. Even when we provide the language of what’s going on, they may not be able to comprehend what you’re saying, or have the words themselves to communicate their feelings to parents. It’s hard enough for those who have the vocabulary and have the comprehension to understand a fraction of what exactly is happening based on what we see/hear in the news. Now imagine how difficult that is for those who don’t.

Discussing Emotions – Tapping In

An activity I’ve been recommending is having parents discuss emotions with kids. Disney+ has been a powerful and fun tool! I like to use examples from the movie Inside Out and provide language and/or visuals to represent specific emotions. (Side note: This is working really closely with the Zones of regulation, which is why OTs and SLPs are great together!) For those who are old enough, we make a list of items that elicit certain emotions. For me, seeing a puppy on a walk makes me feel happy, but when it’s grey outside and I can’t go out for a walk, I feel sad. Giving some basic language related to emotions can help kiddos understand a little more. For those who may not be at the level of reading their own emotions yet, maybe the examples are more concrete – falling and scraping your leg is a very real feeling and that can be associated to sadness. Maybe turning out all the lights means fear.

For those who are just learning language, this situation becomes that much harder. For parents of these kids, providing visuals or real-life examples can also help. Teaching simple phrases related to the crisis, while staying at their level of language. Some key vocabulary may include: “stay inside” “sick” “germs” “wash hands.” Each child is different, making it tricky to recommend strategies and support for every family – but we are here to help and individualize our advice so please reach out with questions! Click here to learn more about how Speech Therapy at Skills on the Hill can help your child.

Telepractice during COVID-19 

The rapid switch from face-to-face instruction to “distance learning” has left many overwhelmed, parents, kids and providers alike. In response to this, telepractice for speech therapy is not meant to overwhelm families, but provide a resource during these difficult times. With the whole family at home, your therapist can get creative with strategies and resources to make this situation a little less difficult. If you are still hesitant about teletherapy, reach out. Want more information about Speech and Telepractice, you can click on this link for more information from the experts!

References: 

Telepractice. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Professional-Issues/Telepractice/